Hvar Island and its Cultural Heritage on the UNESCO Lists

Published in Highlights

The exhibition of Croatia's cultural heritage as recognized on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List highlights the fact that Hvar is extremely rich in prized assets and traditions. 

The Jelsa Cross in Pitve Church, 2014. The Jelsa Cross in Pitve Church, 2014. Photo Vivian Grisogono

The exhibition Croatian intangible  cultural heritage on the UNESCO lists is a compilation of the exceptionally interesting examples of Croatia's living heritage which enrich our social and cultural life in modern times. The presentation of this exhibition in Jelsa and Stari Grad is an opportunity for Hvar's islanders to recognize the value of what they have, within the varied context of Croatia's national heritage as a whole. With its arrival on Hvar Island, this 'travelling' exhibition is paying a visit to an old friend, and it places people and their community at its centre as the most important exponents of the intangible heritage. The significance of Hvar's role in this exhibition is best witnessed by the fact that this island is associated with four cultural assets which are firmly established on the Representative list of mankind's intangible cultural heritage, and which are on show here. The Za Križen Procession and the agava lace made by Hvar's Benedictine nuns were the first Hvar representatives to be added to the List, in 2009. Klapa singing as an expression of the cultural identity of Dalmatia as a whole, and therefore including Hvar Island, followed in 2012. Then the next year, in 2013, the Mediterranean Diet was incorporated in the List, a multinational cultural heritage subject whose key proponents were the islands of Hvar and Brač. Thus the Island of Hvar and its inhabitants have been recognized on the worldwide map of culture as representatives of an exceptionally rich cultural tradition whose significance transcends national boundaries.

Here it is essential to mention the Stari Grad Plain, even though it does not fall within the scope of this exhibition, as it is a material cultural heritage asset. The Stari Grad Plain was inscribed on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List as a cultural landscape in 2008. Its universal value is reflected in the preserved geometrical division of the land according to the Greek system of parcelization, which was set out in the 4th century BCE, and above all in the continuity of its cultivation as a source of food for the population throughout 24 centuries. These particularities are all the more marked because in the main it is the same agricultural crops which are being cultivated, olives and grapes being the most important. This demonstrates to us how the material cultural heritage is interlinked with the intangible cultural heritage, because the fruits of the Plain are a vital part of the Mediterranean diet.

Being part of the Mediterranean as expressed through food is recognized throughout the Adriatic coast, on its islands and on part of the hinterland. It was not by chance that Hvar was not selected to represent the Mediterranean Diet. The biggest fertile plain on all the Dalmatian islands and a sea rich with fish have made its inhabitants self-sufficient for food. Thousands of years of exposure to historical changes and to diverse cultural influences through sea-travel and trading have made Hvar's cuisine one of the most attractive on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. It has managed to preserve its original form 'within the kitchen walls' to the present day, through its modest tradition of agriculture and fishing preserving the 'poor man's' cooking, alongside the characteristics of the rich cooking whose influence was brought in from the east and west sides of the Mediterranean. Besides this, the customs of obtaining, distributing and eating food communally, combined with the family gatherings around the table for sacral feast days, turn food consumption into a social affair, and this is what makes the Mediterranean so special and recognizable.

Island socializing has its richest expression in its traditional music. Thanks to the dedicated work of researchers from the 19th century to the present time, we now have a substantial archive of the musical heritage of the islands. Thus numerous folk tales and songs relating to their life and customs throughout the year have been saved from oblivion. Nowadays there are many male and female a capella groups (known as klape in Croatian), which are more or less formally organized, and which nurture the tradition of the old songs, which are mainly on the subject of love. These singing groups are especially active during the summer months on local squares during island celebrations. A tradition has also been established for island singing groups to be invited to perform abroad, and in this way they promote Dalmatia's musical identity.

The particular symbols which are special to Hvar are the Procession known as Za križen, and the agava lace made by Hvar's Benedictine nuns. Hvar islanders are very religious, and it is their religious identity which to a great extent dictates the dynamics of community life on an everyday basis as on feast days. The Easter period, with the Za križen Procession as its central religious expression is at the heart of the year's feast days. The Procession represents Christ's sufferings and is the people's deep-felt expression of devotion to traditional values.

There are exceptional examples of Croatia's lace-making traditions in Lepoglava, on the Island of Pag, and in Hvar Town. Behind the walls of Hvar's Benedictine Convent, unique items of agava lace are created. The agava plant is the queen of the island's stony landscape, and teasing out fine thread from its fleshy leaves is a laborious task. Creating this protected lace from the agava thread is a very delicate skill in itself, practised only by these Benedictine nuns. Lace – not of agava – was the usual decoration in island homes, as well as being used for wedding finery, dresses and bedlinen. Lace-making is a tradition which women have preserved, with particular emphasis on the lace which was made to decorate a bride's dowry.

That such a small island can boast five UNESCO protected subjects undoubtedly emphasizes the thousands of years of continous rich cultural history that Hvar has enjoyed. Recent globalization processes and eonomic changes are altering the traditional style of living. However, some values, deeply ingrained in the mentality of the people, are still an important part of the island's life today. These values are a long-lasting link between the past and the future for the islanders as active actors in living within and preserving their heritage.

 

This exhibition has been placed in two locations in order to emphasize that heritage does not belong to one owner, but to all of us, to the individual and to mankind. Hvar's contribution to the exhibition is precisely in the values which the island's intangible heritage propounds, and which have become recognizable symbols of the island's cultural identity. In them one can recognize the influences, most of all from the Mediterranean, which have landed on the Hvar shores and reshaped in the long-term the life of the island's microcosm, in which the 'imported' elements have gained their own significance.

One such historical link is coming to the fore right now, in 2016. We are coming up to a significant anniversary of the founding of the Greek polis of Faros, today's Stari Grad, 2,400 years ago. This is an opportunity for us to call to mind two important elements in the tradition which frames our everyday lives – on one hand there is a continuity expressed in preserving our cultural heritage, and on the other hand there is constant change which is mirrored in the adaptation of traditions to the needs of the new times in which we live, so that we can pass them on to the generations to come.

© Marija Plenković 2016

Translated by Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon)

Media

You are here: Home highlights Hvar Island and its Cultural Heritage on the UNESCO Lists

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Activists spend seven days occupying BP rig in Cromarty Firth, leading to 14 arrests

    Greenpeace has ended its protest against BP drilling for oil in the North Sea by handing in “people’s climate injunctions” at the company’s headquarters.

    Greenpeace protesters spent nearly seven days occupying an oil rig rented by BP in the Cromarty Firth in northern Scotland last week, leading to the arrests of 14 activists, including three photographers hired by the pressure group.

    Continue reading...

  • Concern grow over ammonia particles from fertiliser and bioaerosol from intensive farms

    We think of the countryside as being a place of fresh air. Each weekend thousands of us leave our cities to hike or cycle in rural areas or simply to enjoy time in nature. Increasing attention is being given, however, to air pollution from farming. Ammonia from fertiliser and slurry mixes with air pollution from cities, traffic and industry to add to the particle pollution that plagues many parts of the world. It is estimated that halving ammonia from farming could avoid about 52,000 premature deaths from air pollution across Europe each year and 3,000 in the UK.

    Increasing attention is also being paid to bioaerosol from intensive farming. In animal houses these are tiny particles and dust from the animals themselves, their food, bedding and waste. They can also include fungi, bacteria and pollen. A recent review by Imperial College and Public Health England found evidence of respiratory problems in farm workers and raised concerns about exposure for people living close to intensive livestock farms, including some evidence of increased asthma in children. Bioaerosol concerns mean that composting facilities need to be at least 250 metres from UK homes and schools, but farms can be nearer and only require assessment if they are closer than 100 metres.

    Continue reading...

  • Event will take place on 22 September across 18 boroughs, with road closures and events

    Sadiq Khan has announced plans to implement London’s biggest car-free day to date, closing 12.3 miles (20km) of roads in the centre of the capital in September.

    Roads will be closed for the event around London Bridge, Tower Bridge and much of the City of London to help tackle the capital’s air pollution crisis, which kills thousands of people each year and leaves two million – including 400,000 children – living in areas with illegally dirty air.

    Continue reading...

  • MELTDOWN – a visualisation of climate change has opened at Natural History Museum of Vienna. Created by the climate crisis charity Project Pressure, the exhibition on vanishing glaciers uses art to inspire action and behavioural change. Unlike wildfires, flooding and other weather events, the retreat of the world’s glaciers can be attributed to global warming. To incite action, Project Pressure has created a carbon footprint calculator in collaboration with ClimateHero to learn how carbon-intense the users’ lifestyle is.

    Continue reading...

  • MPs launch assembly plan but environmental activists say its conclusions must be binding

    A citizens’ assembly on the climate emergency will take place this autumn to explore the fastest and fairest ways to end the UK’s carbon emissions.

    Six House of Commons select committees announced the assembly on Thursday. It is the second of the three demands made by the Extinction Rebellion protest group to be addressed.

    Continue reading...

  • There are only about 30 north Pacific right whales left after hunters nearly wiped out the slow-moving animals

    Marine biologists for the first time have recorded singing by one of the rarest whales on the planet, the north Pacific right whale.

    Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used moored acoustic recorders to capture repeated patterns of calls made by male north Pacific right whales.

    Continue reading...

  • Ice losses indicate ‘devastating’ future for region and 1 billion people who depend on it for water

    The melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled since the turn of the century, with more than a quarter of all ice lost over the last four decades, scientists have revealed. The accelerating losses indicate a “devastating” future for the region, upon which a billion people depend for regular water.

    The scientists combined declassified US spy satellite images from the mid-1970s with modern satellite data to create the first detailed, four-decade record of ice along the 2,000km (1,200-mile) mountain chain.

    Continue reading...

  • Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic refuse to sign up to text that activists already viewed as too vague

    A trio of central European countries have blocked the EU from inching closer to a net-zero carbon emissions target for 2050.

    European leaders meeting in Brussels sparred over the EU’s role in tackling the unfolding climate emergency, which threatens to significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, poverty and destruction of wildlife around the world.

    Continue reading...

  • Mass migration back to UK waylaid by stormy conditions and lack of nesting places

    The number of swifts that returned to Britain from their wintering grounds in Africa this spring was the lowest since records began, with poor weather in the Mediterranean delaying their arrival by two weeks. Experts fear the recent wet weather will further hit their numbers. Swift numbers in Britain have fallen by more than 50% since 1995.

    More than 100 walks, talks and visits to urban areas to witness the swift’s aerial “screaming parties” will be held this week to raise awareness of the plight of this unique migratory bird.

    Continue reading...

  • Shell, BP and Centrica have talked of backing EU emissions target but withheld support

    The UK’s largest energy companies have withheld support for a legally binding target to reduce the EU’s emissions to net zero by 2050, even while publicly backing the plans.

    Royal Dutch Shell, BP and British Gas’s owner, Centrica, have all publicly thrown their weight behind more ambitious EU emissions cuts, but none supported the Brussels proposals for a tougher target in an official consultation.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds